American agriculture is getting a boost from veterans returning home from duty. An organization called the Farmer Veteran Coalition helps veterans build a future on the farm.
Radio interview source: Chris Ritthaler, National Veteran Outrach Coordinator, Farmer Veteran Coalition
America's farm population is aging, and there are fewer farmers getting started. At the same time, there is a high unemployment rate of veterans returning home from active duty. The Farmer Veteran Coalition is working hard to give military personnel a new career in agriculture.
Chris Ritthaler is the national veteran outreach coordinator. He says the organization is set up to give veterans information and resources on how to get started in agriculture and make connections with established farms.
"Folks that have said that hey, they may want to mentor a veteran from just providing some advice, or a knowledge base, to maybe even taking a veteran on to work as a hand, with the end goal of that veteran gaining the skills they need to become independent," he says. "We also are really pushing to do more job placement within the agriculture industry, so contacting some of the bigger ag companies."
The organization also offers educational conferences and retreats to provide knowledge about ag operations and practices.
Ritthaler says in some cases, the Farmer Veteran Coalition can help with infrastructure and small-scale start-up costs. This makes it easier for a veteran to take the next step.
"We've helped out with everything from small-scale diversified vegetables, to things like maple syrup production," he says. "We have a husband and wife, both of them former marines in upstate New York who are doing maple syrup production, and we've purchased them an evaporator. So they were able to go from basically a hobby farm, to something that's actually allowing them to create a living, and really have a new lifestyle."
Ritthaler says if you're a veteran looking for agricultural assistance or a farmer who can help, he's the guy to contact.
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